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Winter Safety for Your Outside Dog
01-27-2014, 09:30 PM, (This post was last modified: 01-27-2014, 10:43 PM by BirdPoo.)
BirdPoo Offline
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Winter Safety for Your Outside Dog
I did a search on this topic with zero results in this forum. I hope that this isn't a repeat of something previously posted.

I am newly transplanted to the North from the South, Memphis, TN to be exact. Although I am originally from a Northern state, it has been a culture shock in regards to the frigid temperatures that I have experienced. For example, today is actually going to be a fairly mild day in comparison to only a few weeks ago. Our high will be 8 degrees and the low will be -9 tonight. We have extreme winter weather warnings alerting us of the wind chill that will be more than 30 below zero with winds of 30-40 mph.

This is somethng that my dogs and I are not used to. Just a few weeks ago, I took my dogs outside for their morning potty. The temp that morning was -5, not including the windchill. We were not outside more that 5 minutes when my 3-legged Belgian Tervuren went down. He just couldn't stand. Folks, it had been less than 5 mins! Mind you, he weighs roughly 90lbs., give or take and has a very thick, long layered coat, yet he was down, unable to walk. Long story short, I ran out to him, picked him up and had to carry him inside. Where I got the strength to lift and carry him is unknown to me as I struggle to carry a 50lb bag of dog food.
After getting my 3 furry kids inside, I found that the pads of his feet were incredibly cold. I can only imagine how painful it must have been for him to try to walk on the frigid ground in these extreme temps. Thankfully, he is fine and just needed to warm up but the effect of the extreme temps caught me by surprise.

Now that we are in our second wave of extreme temps, I felt the need to share as many tips as I could in order to remind folks that a heavy winter coat isn't enough for a dog in extreme weather conditions.

My dogs are all inside dogs but I know there are pet owners who either have no choice but to keep their pet outside or just choose to do so.

My hope is that we all can share tried and true solutions to keeping your babies safe and warm if they are ouside and in extreme conditions.

Dog House Bedding

If your dog is sleeping in a dog house in extreme conditions (as opposed to a garage), it seems like the popular vote for keeping your pet the warmest is layering natural bedding. I guess this would be a recipe for dog bedding? First layer would be cedar shavings, only if your dog is not sensitive to the oils. Pine is not recommended as pine oil is toxic. This layer should be very thick - 4-6 inches, covering the entire bottom of the house. The next layer would be a bale of hay - not straw but hay. The reason that straw is not a good choice is because of it's hollow nature, it breaks down very quickly...turning into a dusty hard mess that has to be cleaned out far more often than a grass hay. Once it breaks down, moisture penetrates and can cause a moldy mess as well.

After speaking with my previous employer, a farm Veterinarian who lives here in my freezing cold state, this would be the best way to maintain body heat. It is also recommended that a heat lamp be placed in the house but only if you know that your dog will not try to destory it. It seems that making a small hole to thread the electrical cord through is the safest way to install this. Drill a hole, thread the cord from the inside to the outside and secure the lamp via eye hooks or whatever you may have or deem appropriate. Always use a protective grate over the heat lamp ensuring your baby doesnt get burnt if they bump into the bulb. A heated bulb is the type of bulb that you will obviously need.

I searched for a super safe lamp on the internet. This is what I have found. If anyone finds a safer one, please post.

A few other suggestions are as follows:

If housing a dog in a kennel with a dog house inside, create a "windbreak" for your pet. This is so simple. Ziptie some tarp to the sides of the kennel to create a wind barrier. I have seen many kennels here in the North with tarps securely fastened to the sides.

Check dog house bedding regularly for moisture and breakdown. Replace as needed.

Be mindful of where you spread you salt mixture. The chemicals are incredibly hard on the pads of the feet and with a dogs tendency to lick, the chemicals would be ingested possibly causing the digestive tract to become inflammed. They make pet safe de-icing products. I would opt for this product.

Heated water bowls...a must have. We must provide a fresh supply of water...snow is not a water source.

Closely monitor your pet for signs of hypothermia. Whining, shivering, weakness, anxiety and slow movements are all simple symptoms to look for. Check noses, ears, tails, toes and pads of feet regularly for frostbite. Unfortunately, we usually do not see the effects of frostbite until it has already happened.

Plump up your dogs. Outside dogs need a little more meat on their bones in the winter. It is recommended by various veterinarians to increase their food intake by roughly 15% or more. Be aware of too much weight gain though. We do not want to make a pet so plump that they become unhealthy. There is a healthy medium.

Check your pets paws, if you see any cracking then a thin coat of petroleum jelly applied several times a day should help. If no improvement is seen then please bring your dog inside.

I mentioned a heat lamp in my previous post. Some people will not agree with this suggestion. I ONLY recommend this option if you know that your pet will not chew a cord. This is why it was posted that the cord should not be exposed. Also, using the light bulb guard is a must. There are several varieties of guards. Some definitely seem safer than others. Mounting the lamp securly and in a high area is imperative as well. You do not want this lamp to come into contact with your pet or it's bedding. They sell bulbs that emit heat but are cool to the touch. This helps with risks of fire. Only use an outdoor rated lamp, bulb and extention cords. Only you know what your pet will do and not do. Practice caution and common sense when using any electrical heat source.
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